So I have an amendment to it.
Before I move my amendment, I just want to say two things.
I can't imagine the horror and the sadness that has descended upon that town—and thank you, Mr. Chair, for being there. We can do a lot to support the families there, whether it's through the Red Cross or by visiting them as tourists.
I also want to thank the first responders who have been on the ground and are working around the clock. I can't imagine it's an easy task; I imagine it's life-altering for some of them. They've perhaps even put their lives on the line to do what needs to be done. Of course, there are a lot of officials who are investigating.
I believe it is the responsibility of the government, and of course all elected members of Parliament, to make sure that the food we eat, the water we drink, and the trains that come through our communities are in fact safe. That's what a government is for—to make sure there are regulations in place that industry can follow.
I say this in the context of having looked at all the recommendations that have been made in the past from investigations of past derailments. I'm not talking about this specific derailment at Lac-Mégantic, but about other serious derailments, whether the one in Burlington, where three people died and some were seriously injured, and others slightly injured and traumatized, or other derailments large and small. There was one in Calgary, Alberta, where thank gosh that train didn't go into the Bow River. There have been other derailments too.
After the derailments, especially major ones, the Transportation Safety Board, which has experts on the ground, usually issues a report a year later with its recommendations. Recently, it came out with an annual report that highlighted previous recommendation on a watch list that have not been implemented by Transport Canada.
I don't think we need to wait till the investigation is finished. I believe we have enough information before us—and I will detail it in a few minutes' time—to begin to look at some previous recommendations, such as implementing additional backup safety defences to help ensure that signal indications are consistently recognized and followed, that there be voice recorders in locomotive cabs, that safety assessments be carried out at level crossings on high-speed passenger rail along the Quebec-Windsor corridor, and that positive train controls be in place, meaning automatic braking systems. These are the recommendations that the Transportation Safety Board has made over and over again through the years to improve rail safety.
Also, the Auditor General's office has a list of recommendations. When it did a study in 2001, it looked at the transportation of dangerous goods. It's a report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development from the Auditor General's office.
You have the key findings in front of you. Let me say that to date there is no quality assurance program, there is no clarity in terms of the roles and responsibility within Transportation Canada for dangerous goods inspections, and there is no system to measure and report on compliance with laws regulating the transportation of dangerous goods.
These three key things are critical to improving rail safety, and they have not been done.
Do they relate to the Lac-Mégantic tragedy? I don't know. We don't need to make that assumption, whether they do or do not. But it is our responsibility to make sure that the expert advice is followed now. We do not need to wait another six months or a year or however long the Lac-Mégantic investigation is going to take. I think we can do that work now.
That's why I move that in the recommendation in front of us, which reads “That, the committee conduct a study on rail safety”, etc., immediately after the word “safety”, I would like to insert a portion of my letter, which is in front of you, that first:
a) The Transportation Safety Board recommendations on rail safety that the agency has not deemed fully satisfactory in terms of the actions taken by Transport Canada[;] b) The December 2011 findings by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development for the Office of the Auditor General on the transportation of dangerous goods;c) Examine if phasing out and replacement of unsafe tanker cars like the DOT-111/CTA-111A design is required.
that the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities requests witnesses to appear in front of the committee from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the Office of the Auditor General, Transport Canada, rail companies and representatives of rail workers, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and as well the Honourable Minister of Transport.
Furthermore, that the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities request...copies of the following documents from Transport Canada—the General Operating Instructions and other Safety Management System and audit documents for all Transport Canada-licensed freight rail operators;
And that this Study be conducted throughout August and September of 2013, and a report of this study be prepared and reported to the House of Commons in October 2013.
Further, that when more findings of the TSB investigation into the disaster at Lac-Mégantic are available, the committee conduct the second part of this rail safety study, and report to the House of Commons its findings.
So effectively I've cut this rail safety study into two parts. The first part looks at what has been recommended in the past. When specific recommendations come to us from the TSB from the Lac-Mégantic investigation, we will then do the second part of the study. I see no reason to delay the first part, especially as we are hearing from mayors across Canada. Today, for instance, I saw another request from Vancouver. The Canadian Federation of Municipalities has been saying it wants to see precisely what the protocols are regarding the safety management systems, especially those under which MMA has been operating. They want to see all the documents. They want to make sure that these protocols are connected with the emergency crews in the municipalities, because when there is a derailment, guess what, it's the municipal workers who put their lives on the front line. The Calgary mayor said as much.
They deserve or have the right to know, as of now. We have the power to summon these copies. They have the right to know what is coming through their neighbourhoods, what kinds of dangerous goods are being shipped through their neighbourhoods. They have the right to know what protocol is in place and how they fit into that protocol. They have the right to be consulted, and that's what we should work toward. That's why we are asking for these documents.
As to the question of whether we will take people away from the investigation on the ground, absolutely not. I'm not asking the Safety Board staff on the ground investigating to come. Transport Canada should be implementing those previous recommendations. We want them to come and tell us what they are doing and how long will it take for these recommendations to get done.
Why won't Transport Canada wait until after the investigation is complete before issuing new directives? Today, two or three hours ago, Transport Canada issued new directives. They didn't wait. They issued emergency directives because they saw the need to do so. They saw the need to reverse the previous position, of having only one operator, back to having two.
Remember, Transport Canada gave the approval to move from two operators to one operator. They are now reversing it even though the Transportation Safety Board did not say they had to do that. Last Friday, they did not say that “thou shall” or “you should reverse it”. Transport Canada at 2:30 said they are reversing it. They are saying they need to have two operators. The New Democrats have been saying that for a few weeks now. They didn't wait until the investigation was over. They made that emergency directive because they knew what needed to be done and that's why they took action.
We have the road map, not from politicians; we have in front of us the Auditor General's report and the Transportation Safety Board annual report. We have the road map already. There's absolutely no reason for us to wait. I hope my colleagues will support my amendment and allow us to start to work now. We have the responsibility to tell Canadians that we are working together to improve rail safety.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.